The blog is not finished! But after the Theft (yes, capital letters), the want/need to update the blog took second fiddle to dealing with the Theft and just finishing the trip sans computer. Since being home, it's been hard to get that motivation to complete it. But I will. Ever so slowly. Please be patient!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Days 101-105, Buenos Aires from all Angles

The following takes place between Tuesday, March 8 to Saturday, March 12, 2011

Buenos Aires is a massive city with so much room to explore and discover its hidden treasures. There is also many different ways that one can explore and discover these treasures. From organized tours to random wanderings, there’s not shortage of the things that you can find.

With the realization of my time in South America quickly starting to wind down, I had to make the most of my shortened time frame. So the wallet opened and I started spending crazy amounts of money. Tours and shows were booked, bikes were rented, and money was set aside for a pub crawl. It was going to be an intensive, and memorable, couple days.

Angle 1 – City Tour

It’s almost becoming old hat that each city will have a “City Tour.” But I’m not complaining. I’m learning to love them as quick glimpses into the more important areas of a city, giving me opportunity to easily pick and choose which areas to go back to for further, more detailed exploration.

IMG_2995That is probably my only pet peeve on city tours. While great for showing you some amazing sites, you’re also on a very tight schedule so you only get a little time at each place. A teaser. A taste test.

The Buenos Aires City Tour started by being picked up on the bus and taken to one of the more modern sites of the city: The Metal Flower. While it would normally be a random, unassuming structure in some cities, this particular monument is popular with tourists and locals alike for its mechanics. Just like a real flower, this one will actually close its petals when the sun goes down and open them again when the sun comes up the next morning. IMG_3022

From there we traveled to the main square where the pink Governmental building is housed and where many important speeches were given from its balconies, including the ones by Eva Peron. And something I found quite amusing, and really just realized now as I write this, is the fact that it’s called the "Pink House”, much like the US’s is called the “White House.”

We drove through the streets into the oldest and poorest neighbourhood of Buenos Aires IMG_3049where we were dropped off at the futbul stadium of the most popular team in BA and in probably all of South America(or so our guide says). I paid a little extra just to tour through the museum and to go into the stands to see the field. And partly to avoid having my friend Kevin from chastising me for not doing so, being the huge futbul fan he is(BTW Kevin, I’m thinking of checking out a game while in Portugal. Who should I be cheering for?)IMG_3083

Not too far from the stadium is the colourful, and touristy, streets of the old town. My little dancing mind was awash in amazement that the music of tango was everywhere. The image of the local dance was everywhere. People here embraced it. It was what made Buenos Aires famous. I even broke down, got dressed up, and had a few pictures taken of me doing tango poses with a woman. It was so awesome. Especially when she complimented me on my frame and how easy it was to get me into the poses.

Angle 2 – Tango Show

When you are in Buenos Aires, it is a blasphemy to not go to at least one Tango show while in town. This is the birthplace of the tango. And to set the record straight, it is not necessarily an “argentine” dance. Tango is province of Buenos Aires’ dance. Each province has its own dance and traditions. With Buenos Aires being the capital, many people mistakenly claim tango as the entire countries.

IMG_3099The package I paid for included an hour long lesson in Argentine Tango by a few of the performers before the dinner began. As it is with most dance classes, there was a disproportionate number of girls to guys(i.e.//at least twice as many girls as guys). We learned three small sequences of steps: 5 step sequence, 7 step sequence(5 step with hesitation for the guy and leg cross for the girl), and a 9 step sequence(7 step sequence with a leg flick and slide for the girl). When the woman instructor came to me to see how I was doing, I led her through without hesitation and left her saying “Muy bien!!” in a very surprised tone. Don’t judge this white Canadian boy by the cover! I got some rhythm in me!

The dinner was amazing(salad to start with a huge steak as a main course. Also somIMG_3113e delicious ice cream for dessert) and the free flowing wine and beer through the evening was oh so refreshing.

And then the show began. Unfortunately, the servers and workers at the show were pretty hard on us patrons to make sure no photos or video was taken. It was a two hour long show with so much tango that I was left gushing and wanting to learn more. I spent so much time focused on the feet of the performers, trying in vain to commit the steps to memory. There was also an amazing performance of “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” which had many people shedding tears. Eva Peron still has a major hold on the people of Argentina. IMG_3119

After the show, I left knowing I got more value for my money. It was an amazing show and the food and open bar definitely didn’t detract from it at all. If anyone is interested, the show I went to was called Sabor a Tango. Definitely recommend it.

Angle 3 – Going all Von Trapp on the City

With two more Canadians and a lass from NYC tagging along, we rented bikes from the hostel and spent the day exploring the city a bit slower and more detailed. Our first order of business was to attempt to navigate many of the one way streets in order to get to where we wanted to go: the large ecological park on the east end of the city.

The park, a huge protected marshland right along the river between Argentina and Uruguay, is a popular place for joggers and bikers alike. Trails run all through the IMG_3130large park, completely eliminating all the sounds from the busy city. It was a welcome sense of serenity.

From there we rode all the way down to the Metal Flower as the girls had yet to see it. When the pictures were taken and the “ooo’s” and “ahhhh’s” were said, we made our way to Recoleta Cemetery, the famous cemetery in the middle of Buenos Aires where Eva Peron and many other rich and famous Argentinians are buried. The cemetery is immense and one can easily get lost for hours in-between the large mausoleums. IMG_3151

Finding Eva Peron’s tomb would have been an arduous task had I not downloaded the GPS coordinates for it beforehand. It’s not even that large. For someone as famous and beloved as Evita, I was really shocked at how modest and hidden the tomb was. There were definitely many more grandiose tombs scattered throughout the grounds. But I guess that speaks to why Evita was so beloved in so far as she was so much more of a people person. She was one of the masses and related to them.

One of the really interesting things about the cemetery, I noticed at least, were also the immense numbers of cats who just roamed the area. And yes, I did try and pet them. IMG_3169Stray cats. I have my rabies shots so it’s ok.

Buenos Aires is amazingly easy to navigate by bike, with many roads and sidewalks having designated bike lanes and even bike traffic lights at some intersections! It made the journey a lot more enjoyable when you didn’t have to worry about cars trying to earn points by running you down. I’m not sure, but is a Canadian on a bike worth more or less points than other citizens?IMG_3225

We even ended up back in the main plaza in time to see the lowering of the Argentine flag by the Guardsmen of the palace. Whereas Canada and the USA have a solemn way of folding the flag in a respectful manner, the Argentines crumple the flag much like you would a bed sheet ready to throw into the washing machine. The difference: they take great care to make sure that the sun that is in the center of the flag, is at the top of the bundle. I guess that works too!

Angle 4 – Getting Drunk on a Pub Crawl

The liberal side of Buenos Aires, and Argentina, not only comes out with the legalization of Same-Sex Marriage and the rather open display of gay establishments, but also with the creation of the only gay pub crawl in all of Latin America. Of course I had to go.

Finding it was a bit of a trek as I took the metro from my hostel to the station I had determined was the closest to the meeting bar. However, the maps are a little. . . off, IMG_3235and I came to the surface on a street that was not what I was expecting. After getting a little lost, figuring out where the hell I was, I eventually found the pub and signed up for the pub crawl.

The night began innocently enough. For that first hour of registration you got unlimited beer and wine and tapas. I met the other people on the pub crawl and we chatted. Then it happened. One of the girls, a Swede, offered me something called Snus. Snus is technically illegal everywhere in Europe except in Sweden. It’s a highly concentrated form of tobacco in a tiny tea bag packet. You place it between your upper lip and gum and suck on it. I’m on vacation so I figured why not.IMG_3254

Big mistake. This was my first experience with tobacco. You know how they say your first puff of a cigarette causes a huge rush. Yeah, well, times that be ten. I immediately started feeling extremely lightheaded. I would later blame me stumbling as I stood up on the “Swedish drug.”

The pub crawl was a walking pub crawl that would visit three bars before culminating in a visit to the largest gay disco in Buenos Aires: Amerik. Each bar would also have a free shot for everyone(and as it was a small group due to a glitch on the website all the shots were double) and then happy hour specials for us all. The first bar was alright, and I took the opportunity to try a hookah(you’re welcome Sarah!!). I was just asking for trouble I think. The last nail of the night was pounded in when I got offered a second pIMG_3255iece of Snus at the second bar. . . and I accepted it.

Third bar I spent the entire time in the bathroom throwing up and I only spent ten minutes at Amerik before deciding I was done and grabbed a cab home.

So besides me calling it a night way too early, I had such an amazing time. The organizers made sure everyone was happy and having fun. Danny-Boy even took the time to make sure I was feeling ok as I obviously did not look well. I failed as a Canadian.

For those interested, check out Out and About Pub Crawl. There’s pictures too.

1 comment:

  1. The city is inspiring and cosmopolitan. Tere are so many things to do that sometimes you can feel overwhelmed by variety. There is this great place, Confiteria Ideal. A sense of nostalgia pervades this aging but elegant club where the tango brings locals and tourists together. Afternoon lessons are a prelude to evening dance parties. The buenos aires apartment I was staying in was near these coffee house and I spent nice moments hanging out there. I recommend it!